Community Ownership of Local Assets: conditions for sustainable success

Hobson, Jonathan ORCID: 0000-0001-8081-6699, Lynch, Kenneth ORCID: 0000-0002-5296-2864, Roberts, Hazel ORCID: 0000-0001-5950-077X and Payne, Brian ORCID: 0000-0001-6134-9191 (2019) Community Ownership of Local Assets: conditions for sustainable success. Journal of Rural Studies, 65. pp. 116-125. doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2018.11.002

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In the United Kingdom, the transfer of ownership of certain assets to local community control has been a common response to the financial constraints under which local authorities have operated since the global economic crisis of 2008 (Hart, 2010; DSDNI, 2014). Such a process raises important questions over the to understand a process in which community organisations are ‘in some cases, replacing state provision’ (2015: 85). This is particularly challenging for rural and semi rural communities, which Osborne et al (2004) argue may struggle in their attempts at asset management unless strong voluntary engagement and community infrastructure is present. Others such as Murtagh (2015) and Mackenzie (2006; 2012) have identified the challenges in such transfers as well as some of the ways in which communities can avoid ‘dispossession’ of these important community resources. This paper presents research that focuses on the management of two semi-rural assets transferred from local authority into community ownership. The research was conducted partly in conjunction with the Community and Economic Development team at Tewkesbury Borough Council (TBC), Gloucestershire, England, who identified assets in Churchdown and Brockworth as examples of transferred assets run successfully in community ownership. The data comes from a series of interviews with key stakeholders at each asset, and interviews with a Tewkesbury Borough Council Community Development officer. The work makes two contributions to the study of conditions for sustainable community ownership of transferred assets. First, it argues that legitimacy for asset transfer may be established through engaging a wider range of community members and a greater sense of community ownership post-transfer. Such developments pose a potential challenge to narratives that see asset transfer as the result of neoliberal doctrines and as legitimating neoliberal objectives. There is, however, a tension in this debate, expressible as the difference between a forced responsibilisation of communities that might not be equipped for this, and the conditions required for generating ‘collective responsibility’. Second, we add to the analysis of those such as Emery and Flora (2006) and Fisher and McKee (2017) by applying four of Carney’s (1999) sustainable livelihoods categories to an understanding of the essential community capacity required to pursue successful ownerships of assets. We argue that it is the presence of sufficient human, social, physical, and financial capital that creates an ‘institutional thickness’ (Armin and Thrift, 2012) that can help ensure an asset is sustainable in community ownership.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Austerity; Local authority assets; Community management of local authority assets; UK; REF2021
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human geography. Human ecology. Anthropogeography
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Business, Computing and Social Sciences
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Jonathan Hobson
Date Deposited: 08 Nov 2018 09:16
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:24

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